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'The Yellow Envelope': Around the World with Kim Dinan

Sunday Apr 16, 2017

"The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World" is Kim Dinan's debut memoir. Seeking more from life, Dinan quit her job, sold her stuff, and set out on an open-ended trip around the world.

Just before her departure, friends gave her a yellow envelope with a check inside and instructions to give the money away to those she encountered on her travels.

Below is an excerpt from Dinan's book as she battles her desire to leave with society's expectations that she stay:


In my late twenties, I logged hours and hours running. Over the miles, I unpacked the reasons behind the anxiety I'd battled for years. My conclusion? I'd spent my entire adulthood building a life I no longer wanted. I didn't want the career, the house, or the car. For nearly a decade, I'd chased a life that I thought I was supposed to chase, followed one path because I hadn't known that there were others that branched off it.

In college, I'd majored in English and dreamed of writing. My entire life I'd been a writer. In some of my earliest memories I am lying in the grass, five years old, writing poems about the sunset. But now, even my bedside journals lay unfilled. For years I'd had an intense desire to see the world, but here I was, stuck in a job that afforded me only two weeks of vacation. I was twenty-eight years old, and in the seven years since I'd graduated from university, I'd let go of everything I'd always dreamed of doing. I wasn't writing. I wasn't traveling. I wasn't happy.

I wasn't happy. Somewhere along the line, I'd traded in the person I wanted to be, the person who I really was inside, for the traditional model of success. Deep in my bones I knew that there was more to life, but I was desperately fearful of finding out what.

One morning, out for a run once again, the uncomfortable reality of my unhappiness began its relentless scroll past the screen of my mind. I ran faster, darting among the ancient pines, jumping tree roots and loose rocks.

The truth kept rising to the surface: You don't want what you have. And then, quickly, my brain would form a rebuttal and come back swinging: You have everything. Why aren't you happy? My arms pumped like wings as I ran. The truth: You can't continue on like this. The rebuttal: It's too late to want something else.

Anxiety squeezed at my throat, building and building until I couldn't breathe. Unable to keep running, I stood in the middle of the muddy trail, gasping, the silence of the forest all around me. My hands found my knees, and I doubled over, trying to take a breath. It was suddenly clear that I had two choices. I could either say the truth out loud and admit my desire for a different kind of life, or I could keep the truth inside of me forever.

If I said the truth out loud, I knew there would be no un-saying it, no un-knowing it. I'd have to accept the consequences. I had a whole life! It was pretty inconvenient not to want any of it anymore. But I also knew that if I kept the truth inside, I would have to tuck it into the soft belly of my soul and starve it of oxygen, and, as it withered and died, a part of me would too.

It was impossible to go on like this, barely breathing in the Purgatory between knowing and not knowing, between telling the truth or denying it. I had to make a choice.


And then I did the bravest thing I have ever done. I let the truth slide into the center of me and take over. My heart pounded like a war drum.

My eyes surveyed the landscape of my body. Over the past year I'd molded it into the thin and strong form of a runner. The black spandex of my pants sat tight over the outline of muscles in my legs. Beneath my shirt my taut stomach rose and fell with my breath. As a marathoner, I was often asked, "What are you running from?" The question always annoyed me. But wasn't it true? I was running from something.

My legs straightened, and I looked around me. The trees stood solid and patient, Quietly, into the empty forest, I whispered: "Kim, you do not want this kind of life."

It was shocking to hear my own voice out loud in the silence of the trees. Little puffs of breath clouded against the cold air when I spoke. I said it again, slightly louder. "Kim, you don't want this kind of life. You're not happy." And then, because it felt safe to say it out there, "You want to write. You want to see the world."

It existed now, out in the open. And as I stood there in the silence of the morning, my anxiety receded like it had been grabbed by the tide and sucked out to sea.

"The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World" is available to purchase on Amazon.com.


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